Sometimes, when we look toward that which we desire most, there seems to be an impassable labyrinth of nettle and pitfalls between where we stand and where we want to be. The potential journey seems so overwhelming that we simply never start no matter what  reward awaits us on the other side. Those who have made their way through this obstacle course will always tell you it was worth it. Desperation often equals determination, meaning that those who have nothing to lose will attempt anything to gain something. This does not necessarily mean one must hit bottom before making an attempt at a better life.

If you are willing to step forward into this unknown, there are three things I can suggest you to do that will at least let you know you’re moving in the right direction.

First– Follow the voice of someone on the other side.

What this means is that you cannot take navigation from those standing next to you. They don’t know the way any more than you do. Call out for guidance. Someone will always answer, but this doesn’t mean they are somewhere you want to be. These people must have in their lives what you want in yours. The best you are liable to get from them is the best they have to offer. Scrutinize and question, so you can be led by the elite. Once you have set foot on the proper path, your chosen leader will be able to see you, but you won’t be able to see them, so following instruction is critical. Here, where the next step is often obscured, we are not allowed to question the voice. Trust is absolutely necessary or progress will not manifest. If you do step in a direction of your own choosing, your guide will most likely lose sight of you, and starting over is often the only option. This isn’t necessarily the end of the attempt, but if you start over too much, your mentor will likely give up in favor of someone with more determination.  Keep in mind that others are waiting in line behind you for that same voice to lead them through the thicket.

Second– Allow criticism.

We cannot improve by repeating the same patterns of behavior that keep us bound to that which we no longer want. As I stated in the previous step, we must receive direction from those who have a high quality of life. This means we are going to get a lot of instruction on what must be abandoned. Old behaviors and thought patterns will have to be eliminated, while new skills and ideas will be offered. This will come in the form of criticism. There is a way to take it with honor and grace. You must drop the need to defend yourself and realize no one who truly cares for you will say anything that is not based in love. It won’t feel good at the moment, but being open to this is absolutely necessary.

Third– KNOW that you are probably going to get pissed at those who are telling you what to do.

I was blessed with the intuition this was probably going to happen no matter what. It did indeed come in torrents, but when I knew ahead of time that this emotion was a constant  potential, it didn’t feel nearly as bad as I knew it could have. When I first quit drinking I spent an entire year angry. I never let it disable me though.  I always took what was said as the truth, no matter what; which meant I was wrong a lot. Basically, I was mad at myself and this only served to continue renewing my determination to stick to the path.

These three steps can be applied to any area of self-improvement you wish to develop. Look to the skills you already possess. It will become clear this process automatically took place. Everything we learn, from driving a car to pursuing a martial art, will involve asking for and taking guidance while allowing for evaluation of our progress. Keep in mind I am not talking about becoming self-taught at any particular skill; one can go only so far with this attitude. I’m speaking of becoming a master at whatever we choose to focus on.

That’s it. This the best map I can offer on the subject. I know it’s not much, but it’s a heck of a lot better that proceeding with earplugs and a blindfold.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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